Dem Presidential Candidates Love the Occupy Movement

They have long embraced Occupy's socialist dream.

As we survey the large collection of leftists who are currently seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, it is illuminating to recall how very enthusiastically these same people supported the goals and values of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement when it initially burst upon the political scene a few years ago. Launched in September 2011, OWS became famous for its drumbeat narrative about the inherent evils of capitalist greed, the injustices of financial inequality, and the need for a massive transfer of wealth from the top “1 percent” to the other “99 percent.” By injecting this narrative into the political atmosphere, OWS laid the vital groundwork for President Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign, which was based heavily on the promotion of class envy and class warfare.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who now wants to be president, once went so far as to boast that she herself had “created much of the intellectual foundation for what they [the Occupy protesters] do.” “I support what they do,” she emphasized.

In a similar vein, current presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders lauded OWS in 2011 as an “extremely important” initiative that was “focusing attention” on the “greed and recklessness” of Wall Street, and on “the huge issue of income and wealth inequality.” 

Joe Biden likewise sympathized with OWS's message, which he summed up as follows: “The core is [that] the bargain has been breached with the American people.... The banks are not paying their fair share.”

Kirsten Gillibrand praised OWS for serving as “a vehicle for people to vent their frustration with the economy.”

And Cory Booker, who at that time was the mayor of Newark, demonstrated his own fondness for OWS by sending donuts and coffee to a contingent of Occupy protesters in his city one cold November night.

The support that these – and other – current Democratic presidential hopefuls once voiced for OWS and its values tells us a great deal about the soul of the Democratic Party. Consider, for instance, that one of the luminaries who helped lay the original groundwork for OWS was Wade Rathke, the neo-communist founder of the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN. Rathke saw the launch of OWS as the realization of the “anti-banking jihad” that he had recently advocated.

Remarkably, a substantial number of leading Democrats – including Warren, Sanders, Biden, Gillibrand, and Booker – decided in 2011 that it would be a good idea to embrace Rathke's agenda.

Rathke’s radical efforts were aided by yet another key player in OWS's formation, Stephen Lerner, a leftist organizer who sought, by exploiting the “transformative stage of what’s happening in capitalism,” to “literally cause a new financial crisis,” “bring down the stock market,” and “interfere” with wealthy people’s “ability to be rich.” Paraphrasing Saul Alinsky, in March 2011 Lerner said of the wealthy: “We have to politically isolate them, economically isolate them, and disrupt them.... We need to … create a crisis for the super rich.”

And yes, Warren, Sanders, Biden, Gillibrand, and Booker all saw this as a goal they could get behind.

In the pantheon of early OWS luminaries, no one occupied a higher position than Lisa Fithian, a legendary community organizer who, as journalist Byron York wrote, “operates in the world of anti-globalism anarchists, antiwar protesters, and union activists.” Fithian's aim was to “dismantle or transform the old [capitalist] order,” so as to “create a new world” free of “all the oppression” plaguing American society. To achieve this, Fithian reasoned, it would be necessary to “create crisis, because crisis is that edge where change is possible.”

Once again, Warren, Sanders, Biden, Gillibrand, and Booker were all on board, with great enthusiasm.

OWS vowed to bring the despised one-percenters to justice by “creat[ing] real change from the bottom up,” on the premise that “the only solution is World Revolution.” Before long, posters and t-shirts bearing anti-capitalist slogans became ubiquitous at “Occupy” rallies across the United States. These included such slogans as: “Smash Capitalism”; “Capitalism Isn’t Working”; “Death to Capitalism”; “Capitalism = Systematic Exploitation”; and “F* Capitalism.” Also popular at OWS demonstrations were t-shirts and speeches glorifying such renowned Communists as Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata, and Mao Zedong.

In October 2011, BigGovernment.com reported that it had acquired a vast archive of leaked emails containing messages exchanged by left-wing activists during their “strategic and daily tactical planning of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and broader ‘Occupy’ campaign this fall.” These emails documented what BigGov described as the extensive “involvement of socialists, anarchists, and other radicals” in the OWS movement.

Over the past decade, the Democratic Party has evolved into something strongly resembling OWS. It has indeed become a party where “socialists, anarchists, and other radicals” play leading roles and are highly over-represented. And while the party's current presidential candidates may differ somewhat in terms of their demeanor, affability, and style, their worldviews are essentially mirror images of one another. Joe Biden, for instance, may try to portray himself as more “moderate” than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. But Biden's value system, his chief political agendas, and his major policy preferences are largely indistinguishable from those of his supposedly “more radical” competitors.

That is because Biden's party has become a haven for politicians who wish to fundamentally transform the United States into a socialist nation dominated by identity politics and tribalism. And Biden – just like Warren, Sanders, Booker, Gillibrand, and all the rest – is absolutely fine with that. If he weren't fine with it, he wouldn't remain in the Democratic Party.

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Photo by Paul Stein

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